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Red-Green Germany

Gerhard Schröder (Chancellor, SPD), Joschka Fischer (Foreign Minister, Greens), and Oskar Lafontaine (Finance Minister, SPD) celebrating the formation of a Social Democrat-Greens ruling coalition
Gerhard Schröder (Chancellor, SPD), Joschka Fischer (Foreign Minister,
Greens), and Oskar Lafontaine (Finance Minister, SPD) celebrating the
formation of a Social Democrat-Greens ruling coalition.
Photo: Bundesbildstelle

The autumn 1998 election in Germany brought a "red-green" coalition to power in the Federal Republic for the first time in postwar history. The new Chancellor Gerhard Schröder from the social-democratic party (SPD) and his Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer didn't have much time for celebrations as fighting had broken out in Kosovo even before the new government took office. The novice administration had the Kosovo conflict, a major international crisis, thrust upon it from Day One. But there was no hesitation on behalf of the new leadership: Germany would respect its alliance commitments and, if necessary, join a NATO-led strike if Milosevic failed to halt the human rights violations in Kosovo.

Fischer writes on the moment they took power:

We […] met shortly before midnight […]. Schröder's first words were: "We'll do that together." The rest was technical agreements about the coalition negotiations and lots of cheerful jesting. […] There was not much sleep to be had that night. But so what? We had won, and that was what counted. [Translation from the German by ESI]

But this moment did not last long. Only two weeks later members of the new government, including Schröder and Fischer met in a joint cabinet session with their predecessors and decided to fully support the NATO threat of military strikes against Yugoslavia.

Within minutes and without any opportunity to consult with my party and the Greens parliamentary group, I had to make one of the gravest decisions in my political life: about war and peace, and about the future of red-green politics. [Translation from the German by ESI]

[pp. 56, 107]

Die rot-grünen Jahre. Deutsche Außenpolitik – vom Kosovo bis zum 11. September. 2007. [Kiepenheuer & Witsch]

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